School Applications: Don’t Panic!

I’m so pleased I didn’t have to go through the wait to find out what school my little one was going to this year! Last year was so nerve-wracking and caused me so much stress. Being in Surrey, we were one of the last to find out as they don’t send out the details until 5pm, so they can leave the office and deal with the calls in the morning. Shocking, if you ask me!

I found that the whole school thing crept up on me, and I was less than prepared. I had missed most of the first round of open days and some I’d missed completely! Applications were meant to be in by the beginning of January and I was already in November. That might still sound like there’s lots of time to visit schools, but in reality, some schools will only allow tours on open days, as I found out.

It’s a difficult and stressful thing to deal with so, here are my top tips on making a school application:

1. Research schools as early as you can. Look into when their open days are and make note of the ones where you can have personal tours. I found they were the ones I learned the most from as you’re able to ask the questions you want without feeling under pressure to move on in a group.

2. If you have friends with children in the school you’re interested in, speak to them and find out how their experience has been. It’s always good to find out first hand how the school works from a current parent. They will probably be able to give you a deeper insight into how the school works on a day to day basis, than if you were at an open day.

3. Look into Ofsted reports for general information, but take them with a pinch of salt. They’re great for general information, but you can only really get a real feel for whether a school is right for your child by visiting them. If you can visit the school with your child, that would be even better. Seeing them in their potential setting is the best test there is.

4. If you didn’t get all of your answers on the school visit, DO call up the school and speak to someone who can answer them for you. You need to be proper equipped to make your decision.

5. Make a list of pros and cons. Sit down with your significant other or someone close to you and discuss the good and bad. It will make things clearer and when the time comes to fill out the application, you will have a better idea of what order to choose.

6. When filling out your form, if you have a strong preference on school, it’s a good idea to write a supporting statement as to why you would like this school. It may be a waste of time, but it also might be the one thing that swings it.

7. Fill out all spaces. For us, there was a local school that we didn’t want our child to go to and so we made sure we filled the spaces with the other schools in the area to avoid being allocated this school. Along with our supporting statement, I would like to think this made a difference. Whether it did, we’ll never know, however, luckily we were allocated our first choice school.

8. Don’t try to second guess what the county council are going to do. List your choices in your preference as if you don’t get your first choice, it may affect your placing on the waiting list for the other schools.

Finally, don’t stress. Easier said than done and I was a bag of nerves, but what’s done is done. So long as you have done everything you can, then it’s out of your hands and there’s nothing you can do until you find out the result. I wasn’t at all prepared and spent months worrying and stressing over what school my son was going to get. If only I knew the basics.

I really hope this is helpful to some of you as I found there was very little out there when we were going through this with my little boy. No one reminds you about schools and in our case we did it as a result of chatting to a friend. Be organised and if you don’t get the school you want, then at least if you follow the pointers above, you’ll have done everything you can.

If anyone from a school is reading this, what swung it for us was being taken around by a couple of year 6 pupils (P7 in Scotland and Northern Ireland). It was nice to see them take responsibility and it showed the school was proud of what it had achieved through its pupils.

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Originally published at swanny.me on April 19, 2016.

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